June 29, 2011

Settlement, Invasion or both?

First Fleet Re-enactment 1988
Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the City of Sydney officially described the arrival of the British in 1788 as an ‘invasion’ shifting from the previous language of ‘arrival’. An overview of some of the issues are covered in the news.com.au article “No watering down invasion truth of 1788, says indigenous leader Paul Morris” as well as The Punch article “At what point does settlement become invasion?”

In the comments that followed the articles most people have taken strong positions that the arrival of white settlers in 1788 is either invasion or settlement. Is this not a bit heavy handed? History is not fixed and it can be understood in multiple ways. Surely it is both invasion and settlement.

We can understand the arrival of the First Fleet as being an invasion by armed British Marines. At the same time we can see it as being the arrival of a ragtag bunch of disposed convicts banished from their homelands. Both of these things are true and one does not preclude the truth of the other.

On Australia Day we can both commemorate and celebrate. These are not mutually exclusive.

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